WHL comes down hard on Portland Winterhawks

Castlegar native Travis Green will assume head coaching duties for the Portland Winterhawks

Castlegar native Travis Green will assume head coaching duties for the Portland Winterhawks after the Western Hockey League found the team guilty of contravening player benefit rules.

Green, the assistant coach and assistant GM, replaced head coach and GM Mike Johnston who was suspended for the remainder of the season including playoffs for violations related to player benefits. The WHL also fined the Winterhawks $200,000, and barred the team from participating in the first five rounds of the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft and forfeited the team’s first round picks in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

The WHL took disciplinary action after a league audit found the team had committed the following violations:

• A player contract signed in 2009, included flights for the player’s family and a summer training program.

• Over the last five years, seven families were provided flights 2-4 times per season based on financial need and their distance from Portland.

• Twice in the last five years the team paid for two players to each have a one-week summer training regimen.

• The Winterhawks provided a cell phone for its team captain for a period of three seasons.

The WHL’s audit found no violations involving monetary payments made to players, their families or agents, or any violations related to the league’s educational packages.

“After fully cooperating with the league’s investigation, we were extremely surprised at the excessive nature of the sanctions, and we don’t feel they are in line with the scope of the violations we were found to have committed,” said Johnston in a release on the Portland Winterhawks’ website.

“We believe that apart from recruiting trips and parents’ weekend, there is no prohibition in the rules governing flights for players’ parents, which were the majority of the infractions,” continued Johnston. “We are currently exploring our options on how we will proceed. Despite our objections, the league has made its decision, and our players will continue to pursue the goal of winning a WHL championship.”

Numerous players from Greater Trail such as Terry Jones, Todd Robinson, Gord Walker, and Craig Cunningham have played for the Hawks including current Portland forward Joey Baker.